No one breaks down social barriers quite like Halima Aden. The Somali-American model has accumulated many firsts, from becoming the first woman to wear a hijab throughout Miss Minnesota’s USA pageant to becoming the first woman to wear a hijab on the cover of a major US magazine. This continual social trajectory doesn’t seem to be slowing down for the 21-year old model, and it isn’t hard to see why. Aden represents something of a New America where those who feel the most invisible can feel seen.
Born in a refugee camp in Kenya, Halima moved to the United States at the tender age of six. After receiving international buzz following her appearance at the Miss Minnesota pageant, she was signed to IMG Models where she made her debut at New York Fashion Week. Since then, the model has frequented the pages of some of the biggest international magazines including Vogue Arabia and British Vogue. Now she’s crossing another first off her list after recently becoming the first Muslim model to wear a hijab and burkini on the cover of Sports Illustrated – a magazine notorious for its scantily-clad models.
The Modest Movement
Halima’s successes are only part of a bigger movement that is currently shaking trends up – the modest fashion movement. According to some experts, the niche industry has quickly infiltrated the mainstream and is reportedly now worth billions. Whether it’s for religious or cultural purposes or simply the need to cover up while still looking stylish, the movement challenges the notion that less is always more. While Muslim women are leading the movement, the industry is a welcoming faction for anyone who isn’t completely sold by popular fashion trends. Nowadays, more companies are investing in the niche style with the likes of H&M and ASOS jumping on the bandwagon to offer their own renditions.
Fashion and Activism
Yet, the 21-year old has already proven that fashion isn’t her only priority. During an interview with ELLE magazine, Halima emphasised: “I want my career to be fashion with activism”. Recently, she was appointed an ambassador for UNICEF where she visited the same refugee camp, she grew up in. As both an immigrant and a Somali-American, Aden is a living testament to the American dream. Despite Somalia being on President Donald Trump’s infamous Muslim ban, Aden is an example of the incredible qualities that refugees bring to the country. But that undoubtedly comes with its own struggles. As Islamophobic and xenophobic rhetoric grows internationally, it isn’t the easiest time to be a visible Muslim living in America.
Breaking stereotypes, however, is part of Halima’s brand. While she may not be the stereotypical model, she reflects something more important – diversity in America. As she enjoys the successes of her early career, there is no doubt that Halima Aden will continue making history as well as an impact on what it means to be American in 2019.